Seminoles are not planning to change much this season
By Charlene Curtis for theACC.com
The Florida State Seminoles are not planning to change much this season and why should they? The last three years have been the best three-year period in the history of the program. With the more overall wins (68) and more ACC wins (29) in those three years and a first-ever NCAA Sweet 16 appearance, the Seminoles are excited about the prospects of the 2007-08 season.
Florida State returns four starters and three other players who played significant minutes. "We're a veteran team," said Seminole head coach Sue Semrau. "We're not looking to change a lot this year, and we're excited about adding the freshmen to the mix."
Leading the charge from the interior is junior Britany Miller. At 6-4, Miller (12.6 ppg and 6.1 rpg) is the focal point of the Seminole offense and defense. She and her 6-4 counterpart, sophomore Jacinta Monroe (8.1 ppg and 6.0 rpg), provide Florida State with a post tandem that arguably rivals any in the ACC. Last year, they converted on better than 51 percent of their shot attempts and together recorded 118 blocks.
"They take a lot of pressure off you as a guard," said junior guard Mara Freshour. "They can catch anything that we throw. They make us look good by having those soft hands. They draw a lot of attention which opens up the outside for TD (Tanae Davis-Cain) and me on the perimeter."
Miller and Monroe will get help inside from 6-2 sophomore Cayla Moore and 5-11 freshman Antionette Howard. Moore will be counted on to be a screener, defender, and rebounder. "Howard will be a great player at Florida State in her career," said Semrau. "She can score on the block like nobody."
Junior guard Davis-Cain (9.2 ppg) is an aggressive defender, and she and Freshour help to stretch the opponent's defense with their 3-point shooting. They combined for a total of 88 3-point field goals last season. Sophomore guard Angel Gray is back after having mid-season ACL surgery on her right knee. She averaged 18.2 minutes a game before injuring her knee shortly after Christmas.
Even though the Seminoles will be without the services of the graduated Alicia Gladden (last year's leading scorer and an ACC All-Defensive Team member), Florida State will again be a very good defensive team. Combining the Seminoles' perimeter speed and quickness with the size and mobility of the interior players, Florida State should be just as adept on the defensive end as last year's team that held opponents to an average of 61.3 points per game on 39.3 percent shooting.
Primary ball-handling duties will be divided between the lone senior Shante Williams, who is still recovering from offseason hip surgery, Freshour and freshman Courtney Ward. Williams (8.2 ppg), a member of the ACC All-Freshman Team four years ago, has been a steady influence in the backcourt for the Seminoles. She and Freshour return as the team's top assist leaders.
Add the talented and athletic Ward to the mix, and the Seminoles will be even better in their backcourt production. "Courtney Ward may be the quickest player I've ever coached at Florida State," said Semrau. "She's a player that can make a lot of things happen. At the same time, she may make a lot of mistakes."
Semrau is confident that her veteran backcourt will be a positive influence on Ward's growth and development this season.
Always one with a plan, Semrau and her staff focused the offseason on analyzing the gaps between their team - a Sweet 16 participant - and the teams that advanced to the NCAA Final Four. After having the experience of defeating Stanford to advance to the Sweet 16, Semrau said her players are eager to take the next step. "Now they know that's a goal they can achieve," said Semrau. "The experience impacted their motivation and their work ethic. They're hungry."
But to have a chance to advance even further in the NCAA tournament, the Seminoles know they still have much work to do. "We need to establish ourselves first of all on the defensive end," said Semrau. "We need to be a 'lockup' team in the half court."
According to Semrau, the Seminoles must improve their rebounding, shooting percentage, and free throw percentage. "We have to pursue the basketball with at least one more person on offense and on defense," Semrau said when discussing how the Final Four teams rebound the basketball.
"Our shooting percentage will increase if we have better shot selection. We must see the pass that leads to the pass that leads to the assist. We have to do a better job of seeing the entire picture."
After making just 65.8 percent of their free throw attempts, the Seminoles' goal is to make free throws in practice at a rate of 75 to 80 percent. "If we can do that and then shoot 72-73 percent in the game, then I think we've done what we needed to do in moving up in that area."
All eyes will be on the Seminoles early to see if they indeed are reaching the measureable goals established to narrow the gap between them and Final Four caliber teams. Florida State may not be planning to change much, but they are working to do what they do better. If the hungry Seminoles can successfully blend the young talent with the veterans and Williams can get close to being 100 percent recovered from offseason surgery, look for Florida State to again challenge for a top four ACC finish and perhaps a higher-than-10 seed in the NCAA Tournament.